Rocky Mount – “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” – Any More

Bob Houghtlin, my late husband, spent all but a few years of his working career at the same company – Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, IL. He wore a suit and tie every day. Usually, he rode the Northwestern Train into Chicago from Winnetka, IL. and walked across the Loop to the same building. I’m proud to say that he became one of the five Media Director-Vice Presidents in the company and was responsible for Leo Burnett’s largest client: Phillip Morris. Here is one variation of a working career you recognize from way back when.


Do you remember the line from this Leo Burnett ad, “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile?” I’ve spent time with an amazing young man that John Jesso courted and enticed to Rocky Mount. His name is Jesse Gerstl.  He is a managing partner at LarGerKo. This successful man was wearing a tee shirt, pegged blue jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. His office is where ever he happens to be and he usually has a phone in his hand. He and others like him are investing millions of dollars in Rocky Mount, NC. Jesse is the new “Oldsmobile.” As I followed him in and out of commercial buildings on Washington Street, up flights of stairs, through the Carlton House that is being brought back to life in an exciting way, I wish you had been with me. The new entrepreneur may not be wearing a coat and tie, but I definitely caught sight of a  Superman’s cloak as Jesse shared his Rocky Mount projects.


Come and sit with me on a bench downtown, and we can discuss the far-reaching implications of the verse – Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We need these hosts of angels like Jesse Gersti who are preservation-minded, are bringing a new vision, a new economic reality. This is the new version of that old Oldsmobile. The community is thankful for the Jesse Gersti-like investors that have embraced our amazing commercial architecture and are helping to save the buildings. Properties such as the Carleton House where new memories will be made in the reimagined, restored and preserved space thanks to Jesse and his investment group,





2 thoughts on “Rocky Mount – “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” – Any More

  1. Cheers! Very true and well stated Stepheny. Rocky Mount needs this new breed of investor with vision, energy and money to invest in well researched and well planned projects. Who else will do this?

    Far too many local and well established families, our elected officials and city management have given up on our town or sit silently watching Rocky Mount’s wonderful architectural assets fall into ruin–in many cases they own the buildings and houses and turn a blind eye. As voters and tax payers we SHOULD be asking:

    1. Why is this allowed?
    2. Why are the codes that would save our buildings not enforced?
    3. Have we elected or hired the best people for the job?

    I have the answers to these questions–and I suspect many others do too. Perhaps it is time to use our 3 minutes to speak at the City Council meeting, actually vote for viable officials and demand a BETTER City Manager.

    Remember– “the fish stinks from the head down.” And as my Grandmother LaVerta told me “Roddy you can tell a lot about a person by the way they keep their yard and home.”

    Thank you Grandmother, you were so right. Thus, the question I have for all of you is:

    What can you figure out about our citizens, elected officials and city management by the way they keep our city?


  2. I enjoy your articles and especially the photos of the old architecture.  Could you please indicate under each picture where the picture is taken?  Thanks a lot for doing this.


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